This article is the second in a series that discusses the key attributes to successfully navigating change and transformation from practical experience. The aim of the articles is to discuss my five pillars to successful change and/or transformation initiatives, which are not concerned with the different methodologies available within the market sector. Instead they talk through the common pitfalls of change and transformation that can, if used correctly, become key components to its success.
The importance of governance:
Everyone has got that friend that takes the lead in organising trips away and nights out that makes it work. Without knowing it they’re developed a formular, refined over time that helps them make a trip happen that others may struggle to manage. It caters for getting decisions made, managing risks of their more uncommitting friends dropping out at the last minute, changes to where we’re going, what we’re doing etc. This is how I view project governance, it’s the framework needed to deliver against requirements via executing clearly defined responsibilities.
However, if used poorly, without a view of how it can be best utilised to benefit the transformation and business, it can hinder the project team with overbearing or clumsy controls.
This paper is less concerned with the various transformation methodologies and their associated governance, but more concerned with the pitfalls of governance and how best to utilise it for success.
What level of governance to use
Governance should be set up to best serve delivery by creating structures and processes that mitigate risk, but not to be there for the sake of ticking boxes that don’t deliver benefit.
Adapting the level of governance to suit the transformation objective, taking input from those contributing to the governance activities, will be an early step in a successful project. If you’re running a large-scale complex programme then a robust level of governance will be needed. If you’re running a short term straight forward project, then a more minimalist approach will be suitable that allows the project to deliver quickly whilst maintaining control and oversight.
The fundamental governance needed to deliver a project or programme shouldn’t be pushed aside and ignored, instead asking the question “is our approach to governance realistic from a resource and workload perspective”? If the answer is no, then a change (more resource, adapted governance etc) is needed to avoid an unnecessary scenario where resources are spending more time on meeting overwhelming governance standards than delivering the project/programme’s goals.
How – Governance Tools:
Whether you’re in an organisation that has an established governance standard, or you’re required to create a framework, I ask the following questions of both myself and my team at the beginning of the project:
· How did the governance perform in previous projects? What lessons can be learnt?
· Do we have the fundamental governance tools needed to manage the project?
· Is the framework’s guidance easily understood and straight forward to use?
· Is the governance manageable with the resources budgeted for?
All these questions are obvious, but I’ve experienced projects where one or more of these questions are overlooked that typically impact the project further down the road and require time remediating, instead of time delivering.
What works, what doesn’t:
· Establishing a governance framework from the beginning that requires project and business input, which includes:
o Rules of engagement for the business and the project staff
o Clear and concise guidance for managing governance tools, e.g. RAID logs, status reporting (inc RAG status), action logs, plan etc
o Escalation routes (both approval and issue resolution) for the business and project staff
· Utilising existing governance capabilities that have proven their benefit to previous projects
· Adapting the governance to suit the needs of the business and the project that utilises everyone’s time efficiently
· Sufficient resource/time to support the governance without impacting the delivery
· Making continual wholesale changes to the governance and/or transformation methodology throughout the project
· Winging it or making it up on the go, whatever you want to call it, it won’t deliver continued success. Treat each delivery as critically important to the success of the business and make the governance a key foundation for its success
· Not having a standard for everyone in the project to follow – this introduces the risk of inconsistency that will impact the business and the project
Governance should be embraced in projects as a key tool for enabling transformation. But similar to the common issue of having a meeting for the sake of a meeting, overdoing governance purely to have the most stringent governance in the business leads to a bureaucratic system that cripples the project, or as Albert Einstein put it “Bureaucracy is the death of all sound work”!